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Sunset: Then, Now, Tomorrow (Maintenance & Role-Play)

PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2013 6:02 pm
by Sunset
Author's Note:

This thread is intended to log various events and happenings inside Sunset. These can be random trivia, important events to major characters, just plain silly nonsense, or anything between. It should also be noted that posts will occasionally include questions and thoughts of a more mature nature; Sunset is a nation with decidedly different cultural values than many modern nations (and some readers) and this will be reflected on occasion. If you don't like the idea that a woman might live with, marry, and have children with a female android (as but one example) then you might be frequently uncomfortable reading this thread. Everything that happens in this thread is considered In-Character; If it happens here, it's happening for anyone I interact with. Posting is open to all Triumvirate of Yut and specific other nations for In-Character posts as well. If there is something that is happening in Sunset and you happen to be interested in making a note of it somehow involving your nation please ask via telegram or on Discord.

A continuation of: ... index.html

The Secretary-General's Office, Dawn-Class Dreadnought Unconquered Sun, En Route in the Ares Cluster...

"Well, let's see what you've got," Erika Silaco pushed back her chair and walked around the desk and the trio in front of it to the center of the small office seemingly situated at the pinnacle of a soaring office tower on the coast of an alien world. For a moment they all hesitated, each looking at the other and then back to their boss, the President of Silaco Electronics. "You first," the blond woman gestured to the closest of the three, a young woman with the delicately flattened nose and gill-cornered mouth that marked her as a long-term resident of the water-world Sslaa VI.

"Well, Ma'am," she started, but immediately her boss held up a hand and shook her head; "Erika."

"Yes, ma... Erika," The designer stepped forward and placed the animal she had been carrying and nervously petting on the floor. The lithe Siamese stretched out and returned to its presenter to rub itself up against her legs. "It's an enhancement of our existing RepliKitten line."

"I see that," Erika sank to her haunches and looked at the cat expectantly. The original ForeverPet line - of which the RepliKitten was just a small part - had been her invention, one of the products that had turned Silaco Electronics into a galactic industry, and in many ways it was still her baby despite the intervening years. "What's the enhancement?"

"It can dance," and with a mental command the kitten rose onto its hind legs and began to twirl and leap through a reasonably complex ballet routine.

"Dance?" She had been expecting more, and showed it with a bit of a sigh.

"Not just that!" The young woman sensed that her moment was slipping away and she rushed through the rest of the artificial pet's new features. "It can also teach. It's equipped with a standard Instructional-grade II Core and can teach all of the standard competencies at a grade school level."

"That's not cheap. Nor is the added flexibility of non-standard joints." That she already knew; The SDF Intelligence-exclusive IntelKitten was as flexible as a contortionist and had a more robust Tactical Instinctive Intelligence Core and was priced accordingly. RepliPets were priced to target middle class consumers who could afford a pet that would last forever without the more tedious aspects of a flesh-and-blood pet.

"It's a bit higher-end, but it could be marketed as a tutor or even as an instructor to parents who feel their kids need a little extra."

"It could work," Erika considered the cat. She did have a soft spot in her electronic heart for the design. "Alright. Do some market research, private trials, and bring it back to me in two weeks with any other upgrades." She gave the designer an expectant look, as though there better be more upgrades or the project wouldn't get beyond the lab.

It was, after all, her baby...

PostPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2013 3:06 pm
by Sunset
Shalbatana Arcology, Sunset, Mars...

"What the hell?!"

Erik Hendrick said his password once again and once again the login box flashed up; Invalid Password. The two-word phrase blinked annoyance at him and he reached up to pull the plug out of the augmented reality jack just behind his left ear. It was a little old-fashioned but he was an old-fashioned CEO. The expansive oak desk that spread out in front of him, imported from Earth and richly appointed, spoke to that. As did the three piece suit which he wore even for his daily virtual trip into the office.

"I'll have to call technical support. Someone's going to lose their job over this," he muttered. It was the worst possible time for this kind of interruption to his schedule. Standing next to the door was his bag of clubs and right next to them, sitting in a chair with her long, slim legs crossed under her plaid skirt, was his greens partner for the day.

The twenty-something young woman looked up at him without a hint of annoyance on her face, "Anything I could do to help?"

He looked her over for a moment. Her services were described as all-inclusive though he'd meant to wait until the long shuttle flight back to Mars from the Ares System to see how true that was. He could call his IT department and leave them on hold while he...

A sudden knock on the door interrupted his thoughts, "Who is it?"

"Kyle Jung, from Information Services," the answer came through the door's intercom.

Erik smiled. Now this was the way the CEO was to be treated. They'd already known about the problem and dispatched their best to take care of it. Maybe that firing would turn into a promotion!

"Come in!"

The door swung open but instead of the white-shirted and pocket-protector totting nerd that he'd expected a half-dozen of his employees, some he recognized and others he had glimpsed at various meetings, filed into the room.

"What's all this?" He asked, looking the group over. "It's not my birthday... And this is my home! What the hell are you doing here?!"

"Actually, it's not your home." Kyle Jung, from Information Services, stepped forward. He seemed to be the group's figurehead and Erik directed his glare at the thin Asian man. "For tax reasons, you've had this residence listed as a corporate asset that you lease. We're here to evict you."


"You come into the office for fifteen minutes a day. Virtually. You spend more on a golf partner for the day," he turned to the young woman by the door, "Than you pay the girl in the mail room. You make three hundred million a year to..."

"I run this company!" Erik roared. "Who do you think you are?! You're fired!"

Kyle smiled despite his ex-boss's roar. "I'm the guy who disabled your login. How important are you to the company if someone else maintains the network?"

"And I checked the documents that will remove you as CEO... Connie Johnson, Legal."

"I clean the floors at night!"

"But you're just a janitor!" Erik looked at the man in the suit. He didn't look like a janitor at all.

"I borrowed a suit, just so I could be here."

"You're fired."

The man shrugged and Kyle picked up the dialog again. "You see Erik, a company isn't just its CEO or its board, it's not just its stockholders and investors. You can't run a company without the workers but you can run one without a CEO. You've been living off the work of others for a long time and now it's time for you to go."

"But I..."

"Your secretary checked the contracts that you negotiated for spelling and grammar. The legal department made sure they were above board, and a dozen managers made sure we could provide what you were offering. Yet you took home five times what the entire company made. How is your time, your life, more valuable than those thousands of employees?"

"I..." Erik tried to form enough of a coherent thought to punch the man in the face but even that escaped him. "It's not..."

"Legal? Sure is. At least there's no law against it. Miss?" Kyle turned to the young woman again. "I'd make sure he can pay you before you leave. Your services were billed on his expense account."

She nodded and paused for a moment as she mentally checked the status of their earlier transaction. Rising to her feet she silently scooped up the club bag and slipped out the door.

That was the last straw and Erik sprung at the man. A half-dozen arms blocked him and he found himself being wrestled towards the door. "I'll get you! I'll find a way!"

"You'll do it on the streets. We've already sold this asset and a new owner moves in tomorrow."


SDF Development Lab, Landor City, Terra Incognito, New Latin System...

Motors whirred as plates slid over each other, hooked extended, and what had been a splayed-out humanoid form closed completely around Lt. Ya. For a moment it was dark and then the entire room appeared around him as the familiar-yet-odd sensation of being a floating pair of eyeballs took over. He turned his head to the side and didn't see his shoulder. Or his arm. That was normal - the cameras positioned all around the powered armor suit blended their views, ignoring the armor and expanding his field of view. He still couldn't see behind himself but there was a system to do that too.

"Systems check."

A half-dozen green bars sprang up for a few seconds in front of his face. They stayed just long enough for him to read them and then disappeared.

"Suit outline, high contrast."

Instead of ignoring his suit the display now rendered just the edges as thin lines that stood out sharply against the background of the outside world. It was somehow comforting to know there was something to his body again, something that he could see as he moved an arm through the air.

There were a few more checks and settings to configure but after another minute the suit stepped out of it's docking frame and walked over to the bay door which was already sinking into the floor. Lt. Ya looked out over the jungle-green paradise that was the spire-city of Landor and stepped up to the edge of the bay.

"Final check, flight systems."

More bars followed and he jumped off the edge, falling for only a moment before the flight system kicked in and he shot away from the bay and the tower it was built into to head into the clear mid-afternoon sky.

PostPosted: Sat Sep 07, 2013 12:42 pm
by Sunset
Da Vinci Arcology, Sunset, Mars...

"...and that brings to twenty-seven the count of high-ranking corporate executives that have been deposed in the 'so called' Board Room Revolution. Including that of this station's parent company, MNN. Here's what former CEO and now homeless wretch Carlos Vernaz had to sa..."

Stephanie shut the channel off with a fierce snarl and turned to the two men standing beside the long table that stretched behind her. "You see what we're up against? It's a feeding frenzy out there!"

The dozen members of the Board seated around the table nodded in sycophantic union and one or two 'That's right!' could be heard from the wattle-chinned assembly.

"Yes Ma'am," Major Blud nodded.

It wasn't his real name - Anonymous Mercenary was his legal name and his boyfriend called him 'Hunk' - but it played well for the corporate-types. They normally employed him and his company of elite ex-military professionals to take care of whatever dirty work they weren't willing to put their name to. Clearing out a village of peaceful aliens, breaking up a strike, or getting rid of a few dead hookers until the heat blew over. This job was a bit unusual but as it paid well he didn't care.

"You want us to protect you from your employees."

"That's right! Learn how the others are going down, put protections in place, and make sure we stay right where we are. We're paying you top dollar and I expect results!"

Major Blud nodded. He'd reserve a salute for anyone who deserved respect. The old gray goose in front of him, with her wrinkled bags and over-sized 'look at me, I'm filthy rich!' jewelry didn't. He was starting to see why the peons were burning down the castles.

"Won't be an issue. In fact, I've taken a proactive step to secure a useful resource in dissecting how our opponents operate." He snapped his fingers and the door to the Board Room opened and two of his men, dressed in the intimidating urban-purple fatigues they mocked in private, drug a man into the room. There was a sack over his head and the Major swept it off dramatically.

"Carlos Vernaz," he announced, to clarify for any of the Board that didn't recognize the man who'd once been one of their own. "He'd already given us a good rundown of how they run their little takeover plot and with your permission we'll start blocking them immediately."

"Excellent!" Stephanie smiled, though the cracks were starting to show. This was the one bit of good news from the past few weeks. Blud and his men were clearly professionals.

"Stephanie?" Carlos looked up at her from his place on the floor. "Oh, I'm so glad to see you! Now we can start to get things back the way they should be."

"We?" She looked down at him. "Give him a sandwich, Major. He lost his chance when he let the rabble take over."


CORE3 Station, Ares Orbit, Ares System...

"It's a damned shame..."

Captain Johnathon Bergerun stood on the bridge of his ship and watched as the wide starship nosed it's way into the titanic bay ahead of it. It was just one of many identical bays that ran around the outside edge of the double-crescent shape that was the CORE3 Station.

"Better a museum than the scrapyard, Sir," his number two quietly said from just behind his shoulder. Bergerun was used to the man's uncanny ability to sneak up on him anywhere, anytime, but he still startled a bit.

"Yes, well, we've got a lot of history behind us."

That was figurative as well as literal. Behind them both the rear wall of the bridge was decorated with a hundred different trophies marking the many victories and significant events the Equinox had been party to. There were the personal weapons of a dozen pirate captains, medals of valor awarded to the crew by grateful nations, and even a plaque or three noting the distinguished work the ship had performed in the pursuit of science.

Bergerun looked around the bridge. There were also more personal reminders of the ship's history. Bulkheads scarred by weapons fire, crew members new at their stations replacing the fallen... The entire ship held a lot of memories. He'd even gotten laid in the command chair when the ship had been in drydock for a refit. He looked back at the main display again. The bay surrounded them completely now and the umbilicals that would secure the ship were already extending from the distant bulkheads.

"There she is!" An excited call came from one of his officers and a secondary display lit up beside the main. This one was a holographic projection, real enough that he thought he could reach out and touch it.

"Wow, isn't she a beaut?"

The Captain couldn't help but smile a bit. Equinox-Class Heavy Cruiser, Block Three. To be named after the first of her class. The basic design was the same - saucer section that swept back into the main sensor array, thick flying bridges that linked it to the two fat warp nacelles - but inside she was a whole different ship. Enough that, despite his attempts otherwise, his best girl couldn't get enough of a facelift to match her.

"Gentlemen," he called out, "Pack your bags. It's time to start decorating a new wall!"


5781 Beta, Sagittarius Arm, Milky Way Galaxy...

The alien on his mount grunted and roared, hauling back on the reins in a manner that suggested... God-knew-what... to Sergeant Timmons. Though the shattered spear that lay on the ground between them and the fact that he had been charged by a damned lizard riding a three-foot tall chipmunk suggested in the strongest manner that the tiny creature was now loudly proclaiming his bravery to the half-dozen others that sat a respectful distance back.

Timmons sighed, then he looked down at his armor. There might have been a scratch on the paint but it, like the suit, was designed to withstand far more than a twenty kilo chipmunk and it's scaly rider could muster. Should he fight back? To show they were equals and not just science-doormats? On the other hand, when he'd been on the verge of being eaten by a quasi-sentient mat of vines that looked, ironically, like a doormat, it had been best to play dead.

PostPosted: Sat Sep 07, 2013 10:40 pm
by Sunset
SDF Development Lab, Landor City, Terra Incognito, New Latin System...

Ensign Ssl'Kver'Chuk - Chuck to his squad mates - looked over the complex looking armor suit in it's docking frame with his single large eye. Prancing around the unit on his spiked legs, he inspected every detail as though somewhat amazed that the fiendish looking device would somehow fit around his non-humanoid body.

"What do you think?" Lt. Symphony leaned up against the door frame as she watched the squat little alien look over his new armor suit.

Part of the problem with designing powered armor for the diminutive aliens had turned out to be the huge variance in their sizes. Chuck was among the smallest of his species - a relatively young thirty Earth years - but they all kept growing as they aged at a decidedly inconsistent rate. The Great Eye, as they called their leader, was nearly two meters across at the eye. Fortunate for her that he (it?) was back on their homeworld and in no need of armor.

"It is completely adequate to my physical needs at this current time."

High praise.

MNN Evening News Studio, Mars...

"Some have called you Socialist or even Communist revolutionaries, is that true?"

Kyle Jung, Information Services, considered the question for several long seconds before answering. Yana Del Monico was one of MNN's star interviewers. In the cluttered Martian market that didn't mean she was especially insightful or hard-hitting. It mostly meant she was smoking hot and wore as little as possible without violating local ordinances. Still, it was a good question.



"If you think about it a different way, what we're doing is exactly the same thing as the executives we've removed had previously done. Or would have if they had been doing their jobs properly. A business is about spending money effectively, right?"

Yana nodded cautiously, "I'm not an economist, but that makes sense. It's about making a profit."

"That's right," Kyle picked up her train of thought, "It's about making a profit and ensuring it will continue to make a profit by spending money effectively. What we're doing is taking the cost-benefit analysis and applying it to the entire organization. A CEO who makes three hundred times what the average worker makes doesn't provide the same benefit to the company as a CEO who brings in ninety percent of the benefit but only costs ten times what the average worker makes."

"So it's less about making sure everyone gets the same pay and more about the company itself?"

"Well, there's a measure of fairness as well. Some pieces of the analysis are intangible - Information Services, for example, costs money but provides an intangible productivity boost to the rest of the company - and are often overlooked when someone is only looking at numbers."

"Does that mean I should be asking for a pay increase too?"

"I don't know about that. You're probably really well paid as it is. But what about your camera man? He makes you look good. And your sound engineer. And your clothing designer. They all come together to make you into... you. You wouldn't be at the top of your game without them, right?"

Yana shifted a little. Jung was starting to turn the interview around and she needed to keep this off her and her ample salary. "I suppose. That brings us back to the original question - you're really just a good old fashioned capitalist who's hard at work cutting out the dead wood then?"

"That's right. We've let the termites in and they are in the board rooms. We need to bring in the exterminators."

PostPosted: Sun Sep 08, 2013 2:14 pm
by Sunset
Silverstar Orbit, Northgate System...

Debris slowly tumbled past the pitted and scarred hull of the Olivia Marie and on the bridge Susanna Culling worked up the nerve to poke her head up from behind the console where she'd hidden until the frantic orders had stopped. All around the tiny space uniformed officers still worked, one eye on the sensor consoles and displays, while the others worked various engineering and damage control stations.

"What... What was that?" She staggered to her feet.

Sitting in the command chair in the middle of the bridge - her chair - was one of the SDF officers who'd come aboard just a few hours ago. They had been there to run the ship through it's yearly Combat-Readiness drills. The Olivia Marie was a decommissioned SDF warship, leased to Culling Ltd, which was used as a mobile headquarters and as an escort for the mining conglomerate's resource extraction ships. She'd been stripped of most of her weapons and war-fighting gear but still the officers had managed to turn back and then destroy the ship that had suddenly jumped them not five minutes after they'd entered the system.

"It was one of your ships," the officer, Lieutenant Something-or-Other, answered while jabbing at yet another display. Data streamed past on a floating holograph and she paused it, scrolled back up, and pushed it over to her. "Another one of your leased ships. We're lucky it was."

"My ship?" She looked at the display. "Cohort-Class..." She didn't know a whole lot about the ships military designation but she knew that the lease was from nearly twenty years ago when she was founding the company with her now-divorced husband. "Pirates?"

The humanoid otter shook her head, "You haven't been paying attention to the news, have you?"

She hadn't. Orders had been especially heavy recently and she'd put her own ship into action hauling loads of refined ore from the processing facility in a nearby system to the closest Wormgate at Port West. It had been a busy month and she'd enjoyed getting her hands dirty again. The Combat-Readiness drill had been a welcome break, a bit of a vacation and a chance to shoot up some holographic pirates in the middle of nowhere.

"There's been a wave of corporate takeovers. High-paid CEOs and Presidents getting ousted by their workforce. Sometimes legally, sometimes by force."

"But..." Susanna looked around the bridge. When the action had started the SDF officers had, sometimes literally, shoved her own crew out of their seats and they had either fled the bridge or huddled in a corner like her. To a man they were members of the board, prime investors, or high ranking executives who'd jumped at the chance to play war in a real starship for a weekend.

"I'd say that someone with a grudge decided to make you next on the list."

"Arthur." Susanna shook her head. "I treat my people fairly. Good wages, health care, the works. Good people make a good company. It had to be him."

The Lieutenant looked at her, deep brown eyes questioning, and she explained further.

"My ex-husband. We parted ways. He wanted to sell the company, make the big bucks, and move on."

"If you think so. You could go take a look," she nodded towards the main display, where the silent wreckage of their attacker spun slowly. "We've got some repairs to make before we can get underway."

"One of the drones," she said aloud. "I have to know."

PostPosted: Sun Sep 08, 2013 3:21 pm
by Sunset
Martian Duma, Hellas Basin, Mangala, Mars...

Demi Love, Sunset Envoy to the Duma, sat at her desk in the main meeting chamber. Her feet were up on the desk and she took a wide yawn and stretch as she looked around the quiet chamber for the perhaps hundredth time that day. She was wearing what she now termed 'business casual': Tight low rider jeans, a shiny white bikini top, and a leather half-jacket. Business casual was more than acceptable in the sedate, mind-numbingly boring, meeting chamber.

Mars was, in a word, boring. At the moment at least. It tended to be that way, much like the old saw about life in the military. Ninety-nine percent boredom, one percent staggering terror. The last excitement the chamber had seen was when two of the other envoys had bet each other into trying to steal some of the treasure that lay under the dragon that occupied a good quarter of the chamber. Most people who saw the green and brown giant sprawled across a long platform at one side of the room assumed it was asleep but a two-meter jet of flame from one of it's nostrils had sent the envoy running.

That had been a whole week ago and things had settled down since.

Demi looked back to the hologram that hovered over the desk in front of her and played another tile. High stakes go was a good way to pass the time but she needed something else. Something between the leisurely amount of time it would take for the orc on the far side of the room to survey her play, adjust his bet, consider his options, and lay his own counter-tile.

Apparently there was a native insurgency on a distant colony world named Terra Incognito. Front line diplomacy would be a new gig for her. She began to mental list out what she'd need to do to get back into the game, 'Powered armor training, linguistics, local customs...'

Ten Kilometers Down, Terra Incognito, New Latin System...

"Stay sharp boys, they'll be coming back for another round!"

Lieutenant K'arm'n put her words into action, swinging herself and her weapon around to cover one section of the cave wall. The rest of her team followed suit, a dozen floodlights illuminating just a small fraction of the vast underground space. Her tongue flickered out and touched a pad on her helmet that transmitted just a tiny fraction of the outside air. It was enough for the sensitive organ to smell what was going on around her but her ears told her more. The grinding sound of rock on rock alerted her just in time as a long spike erupted from the ground just under her and she sprang back, firing her heavy rifle as she did.

Chips flew and the finger retreated while all around her chaos reigned. One marine was swept off his feet by a wave of rock that rolled across the floor while another was picked up and grappled in a psuedo-fist. There was a mighty groan and the fist, as well as the marine, vanished into the earth. She fired at where it had been - more frustration than effective action - before turning to engage her next opponent.

PostPosted: Mon Sep 09, 2013 4:22 pm
by Sunset
CORE VirtuaGov, Sunset...

"And the senate bill to ban employee takeovers has been defeated ninety-nine to one. Next..."


Four Kilometers Under Landor City, Terra Incognito, New Latin System...

Richardo ran his gloved hand along the curving cave wall as he surveyed the multi-colored bands of rock and mineral deposits that had been revealed during a recent firefight. The fine sensors on the outside of the powered glove transmitted the textures of the rock back to him but it was the returns from the spectrometer mounted in his helmet that were more interesting.

"See this band of red right here?" He poked a thick finger at a band of glimmering red nearly three centimeters wide that ran like a spiderweb through the wall. "We saw the same section at the last site as well.

Four marines had died at the last site, and two at this one. While not acceptable, deaths were a known risk, but the SDF was pouring resources into the conflict in it's efforts to find a solution or at least bring the numbers down. The pair of researchers in their hard suits were just some of those resources.

"Let's cut a section out, take it back to the lab, and take a better look."


Martian Duma, Hellas Basin, Mangala, Mars...

"Go'rnal flar-gin..." Demi waited a moment for the system to power up but, just like the previous half-dozen times she'd tried, it stubbornly refused to recognize her command.

"Ok, let's try this again." Once again she went through the manual - written in Trilat - on how to operate Marine powered armor. She'd thought she'd kill two birds with one stone by brushing up on her foreign languages at the same time but apparently her pronunciation was just a hair off. Or she was insulting the suit simulation's mother's nearest kin.


New Vancouver, Mars...

It was, by design, very hard to find out who the particular Senators in Sunset were but it had only taken a matter of hours for Hermes Sinclair to track down the one 'yes' vote on Senate Bill Two-Twenty-Nine. And now he was pounding on the man's door.

"Senator! I know you're in there!" Investigative journalism at it's finest. Behind him a group of hovering camera drones flitted here and there, racing in for a close up or retreating to give a bird's eye view of the whole scene. "Why did you vote 'yes' on twenty nine?"

There wasn't an answer but Hermes pounded again. He knew the Senator was home, and he knew why he wasn't answering, because he was watching the Senate deliberations live. He couldn't answer because he was standing up at the front of the chamber, giving his opinion on the next bill up for consideration. Maybe he'd answer when he was done, maybe he wouldn't, but it made for great television!


Unknown Nebula, Yut-Space, SDF-Memuru (Venture-E Class Heavy Explorer)...

On the central display a long string of Y-shaped stations floating like a modernist necklace in the middle of the multi-colored gas cloud that stretched for hundreds of millions of kilometers beyond the ring of stations. In comparison to the nebula each station was miniscule; a bare hundred meters at their widest. Those who were familiar with the Martian Defense Ring would recognize some similarity and in fact the same design team who had build that network were responsible for much of the design. Along with the enigmatic i-We that floated next to the Captain.

"Final station in place, Captain." Maxwell Sung-Yo, lead designer, announced as she emerged from the bridge's security lock. "We're ready to begin... Well, the readiness tests."

The Memuru would be the only ship on station for the whole process, despite how big the process was, just because of the danger involved. It wasn't everyday that a spacefaring nation, even one as advanced as Sunset, tried to create an artificial star. This wasn't even an attempt to re-fire a dead star, or turn a gas giant into a star. Instead the stations would use the same system used by the Martian Defense Ring, and perfected by the i-We, to compress much of the nebula into a stable plasma loop and compress it to ignition. Once it ignited, if it did, it would then power the stations.

The goal was to be able to build a star, then use the energy from the star - converted to matter - to build things. Big things. Like more stations.

PostPosted: Mon Sep 09, 2013 10:07 pm
by Sunset
Orson Welles Arcology, Sunset, Mars...

With a low snarl, Aunt Bea ripped the clip from her assault rifle and rammed another home. Energy chipped away at the corner she'd taken cover behind and she flinched as painted concrete chips flew around like a miniature storm. She was pinned down but the old girl had been in tougher spots before and come out on top.

"Opening day, Shalbatana branch!" She screamed out. The incoming fire slacked off for a second and she popped out long enough to send a pair of answering bolts back.

Alberts! She'd seen that face around the office before! The little crap-stick was trying to replace her, move his way up the office ladder by putting a cap in the old lady! Well, she'd show him why she was still on top. Blowing a lock of sweaty gray hair out of her eyes, she looked around the tiny space she was trapped in and spied the discarded magazine.

A well-aimed kick sent it spinning into the hallway and a volley of shots chased it. Enough time for her to lean out, line up a good shot, and put one through the upstart's neck. His head pinwheeled into the air and hit the floor with a satisfying splat. Return fire chased her back into her hole but now she had a victorious grin on her face.

"Black Friday!" She stood, backed up against the far wall, and began to slice the corner, firing steadily just around the corner. "Christmas Eve!"

Her attackers had fallen back to cover and she advanced down the hallway. Someone from Accounting stuck their head out and she chased them back with a couple rounds. She stopped firing for a long moment and the barrel of a rifle appeared, she lined up, and as the rest of the arm appeared she blew it off. A rich crimson spray of blood painted the far wall and Aunt Bea, aged ninety-three and still kicking, hurried forward.


Unknown Nebula, Yut-Space, SDF-Memuru...

"Station variance is down to point-ought-seven, but it's still too much." The technician pointed to a number of stations on a grid display. While that number didn't sound very large on the scale of the ring of stations it was still thousands of kilometers. "Most of it is gravity interference from dense areas of the nebula."

The i-We did... something. Some colors flashed and it wavered a bit and the specialized translation drone that hovered in the middle of it's 'body' chirped. "Must stay in flow."

The display moved, switching to a thermal view of the nearby nebula. It swirled and scrolled until a long, cool trough matched the general shape of the stations.

"Move the stations into the trough?" Sung-Yo considered. "We'll have to refuel them, and it will put us back a few days."

"Stars last forever."

"Close enough. Let's do it."



"Oh Large One!" The tiny lizard prostrated itself before Sergeant Timmons, "Bless us with your might!"

Behind it a whole choir of the small creatures ululated around the body of their fallen mates. Timmons sighed. Despite his best attempts, the whole tribe now viewed him as a god, descended from heaven to bring them victory in their war with the red-skinned lizards of a nearby tribe. They'd killed three of the green warriors - green being different from red based on a tiny splotch on their back. The whole conflict was based on a genetic variance that would breed out in a generation.

'Make love, not war,'

PostPosted: Wed Sep 11, 2013 3:56 pm
by Sunset
A Beach, Terra Incognito, New Latin System...

Katryna Silaco lay on the hot, sun-baked sand and basked in the sun of an unseasonably hot fall day. Down in the surf her children, Mahini and Aviandri, frolicked. Their cries and screams mingled with those of hundreds more to make the beach a delightful cacophony of play and relaxation. Her mate lay beside her, his already dark skin slowly baking and turning the Sindari the color of creamy chocolate. Like her, he was looking down the beach though his Elven eyes were shaded by sunglasses.

"What do you think," she asked, turning to him. "Are we ready for another one?"

He looked back over at her. A thin sheen of sweat clung to her skin and a single drop rolled down her sculpted body until it hit the cross-string that held the tiniest of tops together. She rolled over a bit, one knee bent.


"I thought we were happy with two." His tone was carefully guarded. Katryna's mind could often be in more than one place at a time and it was hard to tell if she was talking about their children or something else entirely.

"Two? For a system of this complexity?"

He sighed. It was a good thing she wasn't talking about the kids and the idea of having another. He'd been considering asking her if they could spend a few months on Earth, in Menelmacar with his parents.

PostPosted: Thu Sep 12, 2013 5:57 pm
by Sunset
New Vancouver Arcology, Sunset, Mars...

"The Senate has passed a bill to make the tiger the official animal of Sunset. An animal that has been extinct on Mars for quite some time. This sounds to me like they are trying to avoid addressing the pressing issue of corporate employee takeovers!"

Janis Finn, overblown talking-head, was in his element. Spin was his enemy and his friend and he saw this as a chance to spin this one back onto his favorite target. Senator Waxman was his frequent guest and fencing opponent, and the two seemed to have the kind of hate/hate relationship that made ratings happen.

"You voted for this bill, Senator. How can you justify wasting the Senate's time on something like this when we've got blood in the streets?"

Behind the thin four-armed humanoid images of violence pin-wheeled across the studio to stack up beside him. Before the Senator could start his response he cut him off, "And an animal that's extinct!"


Da Vinci Arcology, Sunset, Mars...

"Ladies and gentlemen," Edward Wong, head of R&D at NeuGentix Labs, gestured to the image slowly spinning away on the pedestal beside him. "The tiger. Panthera tigris."

As presented, it was a magnificent beast. Fully eleven feet from nose to tail, orange and black stripes rippling over a powerful, muscular frame. By itself it would be a potent symbol for any nation. But Sunset wasn't just any nation and Wong had dabbled accordingly.

"You asked me for a Martian Tiger though. Something that would, like our nation, not only survive but flourish."

The first image faded away, leaving the utilitarian pedestal standing empty. Wong stepped closer for a moment.

"Sorry. For this, I'm going to need something... Bigger."

The first pedestal sank into the floor and a moment later a second emerged. This one was clearly designed to impress. It was a low marble cylinder, sloped up to the top, with fluted sides and sculpted cording around the base and rim. On top the Sunset flag was picked out in perfect detail.

"Men and women of Sunset... The Martian Tiger!"

The gathered spectators stepped back a bit as it appeared on the platform with a room-shaking roar. It's massive frame alone was nearly the same length as the original, and with the tail it was nearly five meters long. It's coat was now the same pattern as the flag's sunburst with jet black claws and teeth. Piercing blue eyes stared out at the crowd. On each shoulder and haunch there was a bony plate with a curved spike that flared out to blend into the fur in a spider-like pattern.

PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2013 1:55 pm
by Sunset
Sunset Defense Force Fleet Base, New Vegas, Zee System, Sunset...

"Alright maggots, listen up!" Lt. Commander Lax "Buzzkill" Chesterfield bellowed out into the classroom. The wide, sloping space was designed to make every little syllable heard by the gathered class heard and hear it they would. "This is Drone Systems Orientation Two-Oh-Three, and if you don't have the security clearance, or the ability to molt, I suggest you get the hell outta here!"

Molting was his own term for anyone who hadn't yet flown a combat mission. The students were maggots now but when they graduated from the SDF's year-long flight training school they'd be qualified to fly the full array of drones fielded by the SDF. It was Buzzkill's job to make sure that anyone who couldn't do the job after they 'molted' didn't even make it that far.

"Today we're gonna have a little treat. A little picnic in the park for the maggots!"

There was a silent but sudden scramble as students began to frantically look through their notes. The Lt. Commander wasn't known for treats, except for pop quizzes, and who knew what the man could pull out of his ass?

"Can anybody," he stepped to one side, "Tell me what this is?"

A hologram of a large four-pronged fighter-drone appeared where he had been standing.

"Sir, SDF Super Aggressor Drone, Sir!" One student called out.

Lax nodded, noted down the student's name for further grilling, and continued, "That's right. Wrong!"

Now that they had a moment, they could begin to pick out the differences between the familiar, current generation, craft and the image he had conjured up. The four variable spars that made the drone somewhat X-shaped were thicker, with more missile hatches visible on their forward surface. It made the spars look stubbier and shorter, especially with the larger maneuvering cluster suspended under the curved section of each tip. Just behind the crux of the spars on the left and right there had been a point defense battery and this had been enlarged and was now pointed slightly forward. To offset these another pair of smaller, dedicated systems had been mounted at the top and bottom crux facing to the rear.

"And what you can't see is the most important thing! This little upgrade comes with an improved tactical II core. I'll be honest, it's smarter than most of you and will probably achieve sentience before some of you too! In fact," he went on, "It's the top of the list. Sentience turn-over is nearly five percent in the first month. Five percent. I won't even bother putting that on the test cause if that doesn't scare the piss out of you, you shouldn't be here."


Triumvirate of Yut Arda Embassy, Arda, Earth...

"Mommy, look at that!" The little girl tugged on her mom's sleeve and pointed over to the gleaming glass doorway of the nearby building. The fluttering flags around the blue, silver, and gold rondel identified it as the Triumvirate Embassy, but she had walked by the building for months without drawing her mother's notice. "Kitties!"

Her mother turned to look. Beside the door were two huge tigers, massively muscled, with thick fur in a mottle orange, black, and yellow pattern that suggested one of the flag's fluttering nearby. Standing next to the beasts were four Triumvirate guards in their dress uniforms and one of them was petting the closest one, which lay on it's side. It seemed unruffled as she ran a hand through the thick fur.

The mother led her daughter a little closer and one of the marines noticed her attention and turned to her, "You wanna pet it? Go ahead!"

The little girl stepped up, the first couple hesitant, and put her hand on it's flank. It disappeared into the thick, fuzzy fur, and she stroked it. One massive blue eye opened and it looked at her for a moment before a glass-shaking purr filled the entryway.


New Vancouver, Vallis Super-Arcology, Sunset, Mars...

"...and industrial productivity continues to climb at a near-record pace. The last time we saw this kind of gains, Jack, we were in the middle of a war!"

A graph behind the economics reporter showed an upward spike that had continued for nearly the entire summer months and well into the fall.

"I'd call this a definite success for the corporate takeover crowd, based on the numbers I'm seeing."

PostPosted: Sun Sep 15, 2013 2:26 pm
by Sunset
Landor City, Terra Incognito, New Latin System...

"What we've got is a bit of a puzzle," Richardo explained.

Lt. Ya and Lt. Symphony were looking over the slab of rock that he and his team had cut free from the caves below Landor City. The specimen itself was floating in a containment chamber, in case there was some unknown risk, but a vast array of sensors and instruments were focused on it and it was perfectly virtually reproduced in the lab's main holo-tank.

"The red veins are a natural ore, found all over the planet, but in a large concentration in these areas. So far, everywhere that we've been able to examine the caves after an encounter with the natives we've found the ore."

"So is that the natives then?" Lt. Ya asked.

"No, at least we don't think so. The sample hasn't reacted at all to us, and is to all our sensors inert. But..."

Richardo brought up another image, this time of the same sample heavily magnified. The red ore could still be seen but now it was much finer and seemed to form a stream of wire-like threads. These led into and through something else - a multi-colored crystal that spun off in all directions.

"We did think that these were the natives, but again, nothing. We do have two things though. The first is that some of these ore streaks appear to be wires, in that they have been pushed through into areas where normal geology suggests they shouldn't form. The other is that the crystals are etched on a very fine level. Essentially the same as that in a computer's processor."

"A dead native?"

"Again, we don't think so. The etching doesn't have the flexibility that we would consider necessary for cognitive thought. It's more like a storage medium. That could be projecting our own experiences onto it though."

PostPosted: Sun Sep 15, 2013 9:51 pm
by Sunset
New Pablicosta Station, Martian Orbit...

What do you do with an old starship?

There are a lot of options and the Sunset Defense Force is in the process of adding another to the list...

"Martin Gregory, Mayor."

Martin liked the way the words rolled off the tongue. That he'd be the mayor of a town he owned outright, and that numbered just over three hundred, didn't matter much to him. The instant the numbers had been read off and his ticket had lit up like Independence Day, he'd known exactly what he wanted to do with his billion. His own town. A place to experiment with his own ideas on how politics, the economy, and all those little details of life should work.

Right in front of his eyes the whole thing was becoming a reality. He already had citizens - people who wanted a new life on a distant world, fellow free-thinkers, and a good salting of odd-balls - now he just needed a town. Building a town from scratch would take time though, and he wasn't an engineer nor could he even pretend to be one. His thoughts ran more towards how to live life once you had a place to live it.

The SDF had a solution for him; Never mind that he'd be taking the product of a massive extra-solar Republic's industrial might and turning it towards a political system that many would consider the anti-thesis of that Republic. Every day, just after he woke up, the first thing he did was look out the window at his town.

It had started as a old starship. Very, very old. They told him that ships couldn't rust but he could swear this one was streaked with brown. They'd sliced off the bulk of the sensor pod and the engines and made it into just a saucer section. Weapons were gutted, along with shielding systems and all the other instruments of war. Then, like a giant ice cream scoop, they'd dished out most of the top-center of what remained and built that into a single open space and turned it into a hydroponics plant.

Eight huge retractable landing legs were installed next. These would allow the whole thing to be placed on nearly any terrain and, as it settled under their new home, adjust itself. These also contained the stairways and lifts that would allow those inside access to their new home. Technically they wouldn't need to go outside but the planet he'd selected was gorgeous and he intended to go fishing.

"I should order some fish."




Lunae Palus, Sunset, Mars...

With a deep huff the great cat blew bloody feathers from it's muzzle and bent to it's meal once again. Bones crunched as it took huge chunks out of the black and white bird and gulped them down. The Martian Emperor Penguin was especially suited for the cold environment, which meant that huge numbers could be found all along the coast of Sunset. They were easy to hunt and nutritious, having themselves feed heartily on the fish and squid common to the sea.

The tiger finished and slunk into the forest. She'd stashed two more of the birds in a nearby tree for later: Something to eat while she nursed the cubs that were only days away now.

PostPosted: Mon Sep 16, 2013 6:32 am
by Sunset
GEC-90991, Dawson's Cellar Orbit, SDF - Gordon Moore (Orbital-Class Recovery Cruiser)...

"What are we getting out of this?" Admiral Davis-Long turned to the ensign who had posed the question. On the main screen Dawson's Cellar slowly turned, the tiny speck that was the new colony of Harapa no longer visible. "A good question."

"Money, first of all. New ships are still very expensive. It's not the ship itself of course, since starship-scale replicators produce them for nothing more than energy, but those replicators are very, very expensive. So we're off-setting the cost of these by selling outdated ships."

"Money's good," the ensign nodded.

"So is control. I can give you a laundry list of space-faring nations that have another, longer, list of planets and planetary systems they claim to control. Which means all of piss to me and to the Triumvirate. Drawing an imaginary line through space doesn't mean squat, and putting a beacon in orbit even less. We put out hundreds of beacons a day, in dozens of new systems. Most of which won't ever be visited again. But," he nodded towards the planet and by extension the colony below, "Where you have people, you have a claim."

"Two hundred and fifty isn't much of a claim."

"It's not about the two-fifty, at least in this case. It's about another hundred million. In every cave, every crevice, and every hollow log down there is a primitive, barely sentient person. A very, very, very ugly person, but we know they are people. Free will, independent expression... All those things that the sociologists say makes a person a person. But when you tell a Roanian that a patch of softly-glowing multi-colored fungus is a person, they'll laugh and start tearing the planet apart in search of resources."

"So that colony gives us a claim."

"Which is why the list of planets where we'll put these instant-colonies is so small. A few thousand."

"That's not really small."

"No. But shared among the Triumvirate nations it's manageable. Between instant-colonies, research sites, secret facilities, and whatnot, we can just about cover them all."

PostPosted: Tue Sep 17, 2013 12:10 pm
by Sunset
Lunae Palus, Sunset, Mars...

Hidden in the undergrowth that spread in a dense red-green tangle along the shores of the Acidalium Sea a half-dozen fuzzy orange cubs watched as long lines of rippling grain disappeared into the maw of an industrial combine. They had been taught to avoid the mechanical beasts by their mother, who was hunting along the nearby shore, but they still watched as the enormous machine rolled by.

They did not care that it would be a bumper year for the Martian grain industry, or that a tiny portion of that grain would make it's way into their own stomachs via a complex food chain that stretched from the insects that buzzed around them to the penguins and fish that their mother would bring back. Nor were they wholely aware that as they watched the massive combine, it watched them in return. Their population was low at the moment, but with proper management the land owner would eventually realize a return on their agreement to allow the tigers to wander their land when various expeditions began to stalk the beasts.


Shalbatana Arcology, Sunset, Mars...

"Your pay and bonuses will be tied to company productivity," Connie Johnson, Legal, pointed to the appropriate line on the contract. "All employees are paid similarly."

"Smart," Sim Rob, Prospective CEO, nodded. "I can't just come in, gut the company, and leave on a golden parachute."

"Nope. You'll be invested in the long-term success, just like everyone else. You guide us to success, we all win."

"I'll think it over and let you know."

Rob would do just that. The pay wasn't even close to the huge amount that he would have received elsewhere, but it was also a big step up from middle management. And with the right hand at the helm? His hand? Productivity could skyrocket and he would be in position to move on to the big payday somewhere else. Of course, somewhere else was becoming more and more rare. Already that week another dozen large companies had lost their entire executive.


"Isn't it beautiful, dear?"

Sun Ye pulled her partner close and put an arm around her shoulders. They were both looking out over the crystal clear waters of Lake Champagne from the huge curving picture window of their new condo. Another use for the instant-colonies had turned out to be retirement centers, some of which were more specialized than others. In this case the center was for retired SDFIntelligence agents and was located on a world not on the official list. In fact, that a ship had even visited the system in question had been wiped from the official records by some of the more... aggressively private... members of the community.


Unknown Nebula, Yut-Space, SDF-Memuru...

"Fire it up!"

Next to her a technician nodded and finished the command that sent massive loops of electro-magnetic energy roping through the nebula. They began to pull the widely scattered molecules closer, funneling them down into the massive magnetic channel created by the Y-shaped stations. As the mass of matter began to increase it was accelerated and compressed further and further until it was just at the point of fusion.

PostPosted: Wed Sep 18, 2013 1:29 pm
by Sunset
GEC-195295 System, Thousand Voices...

The flier zipped along the wave tops, weaving back and forth between the towering pillars of rock dotted with greenery, before bursting out into a vast open sea. It continued for only a moment, the passengers and crew enjoying the vista of a clear glass ocean with a floor dotted with reefs and swarming with fish, before it nosed down to plunge beneath the water. Curving gracefully, it headed only slightly deeper as it's destination came into view.

Looking much like a giant jellyfish, the latest instant-colony experiment floated only a few meters below the surface. The top of it's curved hull occasionally broke the surface as it gently moved, water pouring off the smooth glass dome that made up the center only to floor back moments later. Below the saucer hung a dozen long mooring tentacles. Some of these slowly swam against the current while others moved here and there, keeping the whole away from the reefs.

Diving under the edge, the small craft emerged into the central well that was capped by the glass dome. Huge windows looked out into the space, and terraces and balconies filled with native greenery made even this utility space beautiful. There were more of the fliers parked there, mostly smaller types for ferrying small groups around the planet, and it moved into a space before coming to a stop.

The cabin door opened and a ramp extended from the bay to meet it. Standing right at the bottom was a woman straight out of a travel brochure. Buxom and attractive, her long raven hair hung down her back in a single wet strand. What little she was wearing of a bikini appeared to be made of the local wildlife, with glittery fish scales, shells, and bits of sand here and there. There was a harpoon gun cradled under one arm and the other was waving cheerfully as the new arrivals poured off.

"Welcome to Ms. G's Ranch!" She hollered, in a variation on a Western accent, "I'm Ms. G and we're all here to make sure you have the best time ever on one of the largest undersea mega-fauna hunting ranges in all of creation!"


Unknown Nebula, Yut-Space, SDF-Memuru...

One moment there was a long, brightly glowing ribbon of gas, and in the next there was light. A new star was born... Created.


Landor City, Terra Incognito, New Latin System...

"Go, go, go!" Lt. Ya waved frantically to the group of people who had emerged onto the rooftop where the large Jade-Class gunship was floating just off the roof. Bursting into a run, they dashed across the roof just as another tremor shook the whole city. Cracks shot through the surface and the whole thing tilted. Most of them fell but they scrambled back to their feet, joining the others as they jumped into the open doors to be helped aboard by the waiting marines.

All around that section of the city the scene was much the same. Every civilian or military vehicle that could fly, was flying, grabbing the stranded as the whole area slowly collapsed. A huge sinkhole had opened up at the edge of the city and the nearby buildings were collapsing as it slowly sank even further into the ground. That it was the work of the natives was clear - at the edges huge rock fists could be seen grabbing onto whatever they could reach and pitching it into the depths.

PostPosted: Thu Sep 19, 2013 9:02 pm
by Sunset
GEC-95263 Delta...

Sergeant Timmons crested what he fervently hoped was the last ridge in what seemed to be a never ending series of razor-spines to find his destination almost at his feet. Down another steep rocky trail littered with debris stood the entrance to the looming stone tower he'd spied from far down in a nearby valley. A tower, especially one built from tightly fitted and ornately carved stone, generally meant civilization of some kind.

He debated flying down the last few hundred feet. It would be easier, just as he could have flown up to this point, but flying men in armor tended to be hailed as gods by religious civilizations and shot at by violent ones. He'd found it was better to keep that particular card in his pocket until he needed it. With a sigh, he picked up his feet and finished the long trail to the front door.

The base of the tower was thick and strong, made of immense blocks of stone that were fitted with ruler-straight precision. He'd seen a lot of monuments, and the first thing that came to mind was the question of where they got the rock, and how they moved it up this mountain. It could have been quarried in place but unless the inhabitants were abominable snowmen, they would quickly freeze to death. Only his powered armor, which indicated a cool -10c on it's HUD, kept him comfortable.

'Which means there's probably another trail. An easier trail.' He sighed again and stepped inside the enclosed doorway. Thick walls of stone on each side kept the winds away from the door, which looked to be made of a local wood. It was richly carved and ornamented and he hesitated to knock. Then he hesitated again, his fist raised and ready to knock.

The knock. It seemed almost universal. Unless the civilization didn't have doors, or had curtains, they knocked. He'd never run into a civilization where knocking was rude, or seen as an aggressive act, even though the act of hitting the door with one's fist seemed like it would be aggressive. They didn't always knock on the door, but they almost always knocked.

"Take a note." His HUD chirped in acknowledgement. "Check for anthropologic research on knocking on doors and knocking in general to request entrance."

He'd save that line of thought for later, but for the moment... *Knock... Knock...*

PostPosted: Thu Sep 19, 2013 9:40 pm
by Sunset
Encyclopedia Sunsettia, Entry: New Latin System...

The New Latin System is one of the closer star systems to the Ares System. This made it an natural area for the construction of an early warning system for the SDF's ring of patrol stations and sensor arrays around that system early in it's life. The system is now home to one of the major worlds in Sunset, though it has already reached it's reasonable population limits.

The New Latin system's star is a M9 V Red Dwarf with typical characteristics for a star of it's type and age. It's stable, and expected to out-last human civilization for the foreseeable future.

The closest planetary body is Terra Incognito, a water world (95% water coverage) with standard gravity, a 23 hour day, and a 315 day year. The atmosphere is comfortable, comparable to Earth, and is generally considered to be pleasant year-round. The planet is covered in numerous single islands and several large island chains, with the largest of these hosting Landor City, which covers several large islands, and the majority of the planet's 2.3 billion population. It has two moons, both of which have a single major city that serves as a low-gravity spaceport and construction facility. They are also lightly fortified, with planetary defense batteries and drone wings for local patrols.

The only other planet is Leones, a fitting name due to it's golden color and large ring system. It is a gas giant, though small in comparison to many others, and is close enough to Terra Incognito to often be called the 'Third Moon'. It is routinely visible during the day for about one-ninth of the year. It also has two moons, one of which has been built up into a gas extraction and processing facility, and the other lightly fortified and used as the control center for the SDF surveillance network.

Beyond this is a light asteroid belt, the remains of several smaller planets, and this sees some occasional interest from mineral extractors though it is very thin and only occasionally worth the time and money.

PostPosted: Fri Sep 20, 2013 7:01 am
by Sunset
Da Vinci Arcology, Sunset, Mars...

"The Senate," the teacher began, "Is the government's legislative body. It creates, debates, and passes all the laws that apply to all citizens of the Republic. We'll start with how the Senators are selected."

"This," he brought up a graphic of a questionnaire, "Is where it all begins. Well, let's go back a little further. This..." He brought up another of a small baby, "Is where it actually begins. When you're born, or become a Sunset citizen, you're assigned a number. It's not a national ID number like in other nations where freedom isn't valued, but a simple one to one hundred. That number, chosen at random, indicates which Senator you'll vote for."

"You see, under some forms of representative government, who you vote for is chosen by your geographic location. These systems institute a local bias. People vote for someone familiar, a face they know. Often regardless of their talent. In Sunset, we vote based on talent and skill. Hopefully. Let's get back to the questionnaire."

That graphic returned and he began to point to the various questions. "Now, what we do is we send out a questionnaire like this to all the potential voters with that particular Senate number. The questions on it are randomly determined from a pool of questions numbering in the thousand. There's twenty questions, most of which are having to do with the voter's opinion on various political, economic, and social issues. Yes," he pointed to one, "One of them is 'What is your favorite color?'"

"The answers to these questions are sent back and checked for basic mistakes. Filling out your questionnaire in crayon will earn you a rejection. Once this initial sort has been completed, the same system then does an instant run-off. It uses your particular answers to the questions to determine the top ten respondents that best fit the average voter's answers. It sounds complex, and it is."

"For example," he brought up a graphic of various colored circles, which began to move and overlap, "The color question. If fifty percent of the people who answer say 'I like red', then the system puts a heavier weight to a respondent who likes red. This is done with all twenty questions - again, each questionnaire is different, so you have a lot of potential answers - and each respondent gets more or less weight depending on how closely their answers match the general answers in the pool."

"Once the top ten are determined, those questionnaires are then put up for a vote by the Senate group. There are no names attached, and all information that could be used to personally identify someone is scrubbed from the answers. The voter scores each candidate from one to ten, one being the best, ten the worst. All the votes are added up, and the two lowest scores are voted on again."

"But there's another complication. When you vote, you're presented with a number of different rosters. There's one that's for your Senator, and then one for each of the Secretariat committees. And they don't tell you which is which."

"The Secretariat committees are advisory panels to the Senate which also function as advisory panels to the various branches. So the Secretary of State has their own Advisory Panel, as does the SDF. The catch is, they don't know if they are on an advisory panel, or if they are a Senator. Well, most Senators figure it out pretty quick if they see their own avatar giving a speech on the evening news, but we'll get to that later."

"The joint advisory panels operate something like a lower house. They can propose and even vote on a bill, which forwards it to the Senate for consideration. The Senate debates, modifies, and votes on the bill. It's then sent to the Constitutional Court to check if it passes muster, and then to the Secretary-General who makes sure it wouldn't endanger the security of the Republic. For instance if someone proposed and somehow passed a bill disbanding the military, or selling all the Martian territories to the Ardans."

"So why all the secrecy? Charisma and money. In the United States, which is where many of our ancestors came from, politics eventually became dominated by two factors - those with good hair, and those with lots of money. Having both was even better. Skill and talent had very little to do with whether one would be a successful politician. Graft and corruption overcame the system. Part of this was fostered by political parties, another thing we don't have. Amendment Six specifically states that political parties shall have no place in Sunset government. Period. If someone belongs to an organization and mentions that on their questionnaire, or mentions a political organization at all, that is either scrubbed or they are discarded."

"Is it a perfect system? No such thing exists. Sunset's Senate system is designed to make it harder to influence the Senate through lobbying and other forms of pressure. It's mostly successful, and a vibrant media helps keep those who are influenced in the spotlight so that their corruption doesn't spread."

PostPosted: Fri Sep 20, 2013 8:35 pm
by Sunset
Shalbatana Arcology, Sunset, Mars...

"TransMars Consulting, how may I help you?"

Erik Hendrikson listened as the AI took the call and began a standard series of negotiations with the caller. By the end of the conversation, he'd have another client and he'd be one step closer to his revenge!

Oh yes, revenge. He rubbed his hands together and cackled a bit. It was simple, now that he'd given it some thought. High rolling executives were quickly becoming a thing of the past, but those companies, large and small, still needed many of the vital services that he and the other point-one percent had provided. Namely their network of contacts within the point-one percent!

His answer? Start a consulting firm! The AI handled most of it, and he was officially listed as a Junior Consultant. Never mind that his dog was the Executive Consultant, and his pet goldfish the Secretary. A few dozen other imaginary positions, and the pay he asked for seemed downright reasonable!

"After all, we're employing nearly fifty people!"

Which put his income, as majority owner and stakeholder, right back where it had been. He was floating in the same circles again, attending the same parties, hiring the same golf partners. And working just about as much.

"Screw you, from Information Services!"

PostPosted: Fri Sep 20, 2013 10:13 pm
by Sunset
Orson Welles Arcology, Sunset, Mars...

The Big Dirty Secret of the Sunset government is that it, through a network of companies controlled by various Secretariats, owns a piece of nearly every company in Sunset. Any business that is deemed vital to the national security is investigated, inspected, and invested in. These companies buy stock, usually through larger funds, in public companies or make individual investments in those that are kept private. The returns on these investments go to finance the government. The government also uses it's position on various boards and committees to steer company policy in directions that it deems useful to the national good.

Which means that, since the government is controlled by the populace, and the populace is, in turn, manipulated by the companies that are then owned by the government... As one observer put it, it's Turtles, All the Way Down.

This aside, there is a Little Dirty Secret that is related to the Big Dirty Secret. As part of it's role in investigating companies for possible investment and/or partial ownership, the government employs the Intelligence branch of the Sunset Defense Force (SDF), often referred to as SDFInt. Intelligence agencies, as a matter of course, often employ methods that many might consider morally dubious in the pursuit of their assigned tasks. Now, in Sunset, many of the 'morality'-based approaches to intelligence gathering simply do not work. Attempting to blackmail someone because they are gay is out - no one cares - and frequent visits to those in the sexual trades isn't of any help either since the government owns a stake in most of them.

(Why? Because then it can set company policies that reduce crime, increase public health, and the like. It's hard to tell prostitutes to get a regular STD screening when they'll be locked up for doing so.)

All of which means that when it comes to the dark side of corporate investigations things can get very murky, very quickly.

PostPosted: Sat Sep 21, 2013 9:47 am
by Sunset
GEC-195295 System, Thousand Voices...

"You've got plenty of time, but only one shot," Julie's voice whispered in Kiyl's ear, "So make it count!"

He nodded and bent to the sights on his spear gun. Beside him, her body wrapped around the massive harpoon cannon she seemed to always have at hand, Julie floated. She'd be there to make the kill if he missed and the leviathan turned on them but then he'd lose any bragging rights back at the lodge. And Julie would add yet another notch to her belt.

Peering through the open circle he watched as their prey, the creature he'd come thousand of light years to stalk, swam out of its lair. It had been holed up in a deep cave at the base of a riotously colored reef all morning and now that it's immense bulk came into view he could feel the gun start to shake in his hands. It was over fifty meters long, with a row of pulsing tentacles a third of the way along it's body that sent the pseudo-cephalapod surging forward. Ahead of these was the creature's enormous beak, a flesh-covered jagged-toothed craw that opened momentarily to reveal another set of small, powerful tentacles inside.

If it were to reach him it would clamp that massive beak down on his body then they would extend and pull him apart.

The image of his head being torn off by one of those scaled and spiny arms wasn't the best way to concentrate on his shot and he turned to look over at Julie for re-assurance. She wasn't much help as far as distractions, as her entire wardrobe appeared to consist of miniscule diving suits made of exotic materials. Even the 'diving suit' she wore today consisted of semi-translucent neoprene figure-eights held in place with see-through bands. But at least she wasn't contemplating having him for a light snack.

"Keep your eye on it," she saw him looking over at her through the corner of her eye. She was still concentrating completely on the megalapod. "Put your sights right on the joint of it's beak, take a deep breath, hold it for only a moment, and squeeze the trigger."

Turning back, he saw that it had turned and was slowly picking it's way along the base of the reef roughly parallel to them. Just as she'd coached him, he lined up his sights.

Joint of the beak...

Take a deep breath...

Hold it...

Squeeze the trigger.

The spear shot forward, the powerful little motor encased in the shaft quickly turning the open-tipped spear into a super-cavitation arrow that lanced through the water like a lightning bolt and struck the Rezanopoid just in front of one of it's bulging eyes. It punched through the thick skin and a moment later the shock wave spawned by the explosive warhead hit Kiyl. That reminded him to breath and he took a deep breath and turned to Julie to shout his triumph.

Beside him the young woman was rolling onto her back, the harpoon cannon swinging back behind her, as an eclipsing maw began to close around them. Calm as a vacuum she lined up her shot and pulled the trigger even as the jaws swung down. Kiyl closed his eyes and threw his spear gun up in a futile gesture and something hit him hard enough to send him spinning away.

He opened his eyes. In front of him, surrounded by the ruined flesh of the creature that had snuck up on them, Julie swam completely untouched. Calmly she began to reload the harpoon gun, turning to him as she slotted another monster barb into it's place.

"Didn't want to ruin your shot."


Orson Welles Arcology, Sunset, Mars...

Agent Sun-Smith took another drink and set it down on the glass surface of the bar before turning to look over his shoulder towards the door.

"He should be here by now," he muttered.

And by all rights his latest assignment should have. Even before he'd 'casually' bumped into him at the bar, Sun-Smith had picked Davis Winfield out of the after-work rush pouring out of Cobalt-Cline and tracked him for a week. He was a regular at this bar, coming in almost every night. Drinking, especially like he did, was expensive and judging by the man's apartment and clothing it chewed up most of his disposable income.

That made him a perfect target for Sun-Smith's part in investigating Cobalt-Cline for potential government investment.

Part of SDFInt's game rules when it came to company investigations were certain rules and one of these was no entrapment. He couldn't solicit Davis Winfield to do anything illegal. He could give him opportunity though and that he had done. At first, he'd chatted him up about their respective jobs, bitching about this and that until he'd gotten him to reveal that he was a mid-level engineer. Talk had turned to his own job and, as casually as he could, Sun-Smith had slowly and carefully implied that he was involved in some less-than-legal activities involving organized crime.

That had given Winfield opportunity, and an off-hand remark that he'd like to see the man's office had at least suggested that the two might engage in some larceny. He had shrugged it off and the next night he'd been back for more gin and griping. Not tonight though.

"Hey Sunny!"

Sun-Smith turned and a big grin broke across his face, "Hey Davis!"

"How you doing?"

"Same as yesterday! What'll you have?" The Agent turned to the bartender and held up two fingers as Winfield gave him his drink of choice. It arrived in a moment and the two men settled down for their usual evening chat as more patrons entered the bar.

"Busy night," Davis commented, looking around. "Say... The other night you asked if you could look around the office?"

"Yeah! Sounds like a neat place."

"Well, I happen to know there's no one around tonight. No one to notice if something might go missing..."

Sun-Smith looked at his friend sideways, "Yeah? Cause I think I can get a couple guys and we can... Make it a good night."

"Oh, I think so too!" Davis nodded. "I know just the right guys..."

The Agent turned to him, "Huh?"

"Excuse me..."

He saw a shadow fall across him and turned to look over his shoulder to where a pair of police officers stood just behind him. The bar was suddenly empty and even the bartender had disappeared.

"Sir, you're under arrest. Conspiracy to commit felony theft."

"You!" The Agent turned to Davis, "Did you..."

"Turn you in? Hell yes." Winfield finished his drink. "I'm not risking my job for some guy I met in a bar."


GEC-684, Hanson's Kneecap...

With a slurping sucking sound, the fat little shuttle broke free of the gray-yellow mud bog where it had touched down and rose into the sky. Trails of the goopy sludge slid away as it flew over the small group of dismal looking men and women who had been roughly ejected from it by the burly guards. Splattering them with thick globs of the stuff it made them look and feel even worse than they had become on spotting the dismal looking mud ball on their transport's view screen.

"Welcome," Their host began, "To Hanson's Kneecap." He failed to explain the origins of this delightful name and instead went straight to the point, holding up a glass jar filled with bits of hardened mud. "This is why you are here."

That really wasn't why they were there. They were there because, according to the government, the value of a life was 5,109,348.20 Di-Coins. All of those present had been, on strength of the evidence presented against them and without a reasonable doubt, convicted of murder. If they had been convicted of public murder, such as killing someone in a public place, they'd already be dead. But since they had at least been smart enough to commit their crime in private, there was the slightest shred of doubt that they might not have committed the crime.

This mean that, until it could be proved that they were innocent, their lives were forfeit to the family of those they had deprived of their relation. Since most people didn't want to keep the person who had killed their wife or husband or son or daughter as a slave they had been sold off to someone who had need of their labor. In this case that was Horatio Grim, mud miner. Given that the value of a life was set at around five million Di-Coins, that meant that whatever was in that bottle had to be worth just about that much.

That reasonably explained both why there were ten murder-slaves standing in a muddy swamp as well as why Horatio was talking to them behind the faceplate of a very formidable looking suit of powered armor. He'd gone for the whole 'Master of His Domain' look - flat black armor, a giant skull on one shoulder and across the chest plate, and voluptuous winged naked women holding more skulls sculpted onto vambraces and leg plates. The thick mud that coated most of the armor served to obscure anything interesting though it did make him appear more the part.

"These," he shook the jar, "Are Tyrant Stones." The action of shaking the jar caused something to happen inside the jar and deep purple light seeped out from the muddy bits to flood the glass. "And when they're cut they look like this," he pointed to the skull emblazoned on his chest. In the center of it's forehead a large purple gem was set. He pushed at it with a finger and the same purple light began to shine. "They absorb motion and emit light. Don't ask me how. But I found em, made my claim, and now I'm the sole supplier. Which makes this bottle worth," he shook it meaningfully, "Worth about one of you."

"Why not have robots do it then?" One of the bolder convicts stared at him, an insolent look on his face.

"Because you're cheaper. You can sort through a mud hole, shake out the rocks, test them to see if they shine, and defend yourselves for a lot less than it costs for a robot that can do all that."

"Defend ourselves?" The smile was gone.

"That's right," Grim picked up something from a stack of crates that stood next to him. He tossed it to the man who caught it and looked down at the heavy pistol in amazement. Immediately he turned it around and pointed at the mud miner. "Don't bother. I could kill you with my bare hands before that thing would scratch the paint. And you wouldn't have that one bullet you might want to save for yourself."

"Then why don't we just kill ourselves now?" Another convict, a slim woman covered in tribal tattoos, asked.

"Because if you fill your jar and bring it to me, I'll turn you lose. Give you enough supplies to make your own way, fly you wherever you like, and I'll buy what you find. Find enough, you'll end up rich."

"Hellova deal. How many have made it that far?"

Horatio shrugged, "Couple."

"What about the rest?"

He shrugged again. The meaning was clear. In one way or another the swamp had claimed them.

"I've got a bag for each of you. Come back when you run out of food or out of ammo, or you fill your jar."

PostPosted: Sat Sep 21, 2013 6:41 pm
by Sunset
GEC-49800 Orbit, SDF-Wheaton, Ten Years Ago...

"I suppose," Captain Dory mused aloud, "With all the stars, and all the planets, that it had to happen sometime."

In the main holo-tank, right in front of the much larger main display, a representation of the system they had been assigned to investigate and catalog slowly spun. Each small world had the sheen that indicated an atmosphere and each was, through no fault of the rendering system that reduced the sensor data to a scale reasonable for viewing, almost entirely one color. There were nine of them, each about the size of a small moon and no bigger, and all within the star's habitable zone. A few of them had moons of their own; small rocky spheres that shot around at a pace that would make Phobos envious.

"Someone's going to come visiting once this hits the journals. What do we name it?"

He looked around the bridge but no one had any immediate suggestions. At least not until he turned to the one person he hoped wouldn't have a suggestion. Ensign Gabriel had his hand up and a wide smile on his face and he knew - He Knew - that he was about to regret acknowledging him.

"What is it, Ensign?" The young man was a fan of all things electronic, with a particular passion for gaming and antique games in particular, and he couldn't help but reference his passion whenever he got a chance.

"Super Mario!"

"Da fuq?" From all around the room came various snorts, snickers, and derisive laughs as he struggled to explain.

"See, there used to be this game called Mario Brothers, and they would have what they called worlds, or levels, which were usually one particular type of geography. You'd have a water world..." He conjured up a hologram of the blue world in the main tank, abet much larger. It was mostly water, dotted with the occasional island, and swarming with all kinds of aquatic life.

"Or a desert world..." Again, a hologram of the sandy brown world, close enough to show the massive canyons and spires that crowded the entire surface except for two tiny ice caps.

"So we name it Super Mario, and you'll have World One through World Nine! It will be awesome!"

Dory sighed and shook his head. He'd give it twenty-four hours for someone to think of a better name.


Super Mario World IV...

"Sunday, Sunday, Sunday... And welcome to the Super Mario World Cup!"

A dozen cars stood idling at the starting line, their low, sleek bodies nearly buzzing with contained energy. Ahead of them, flowing over unending miles of rolling prairie dotted with the occasional copse of small trees or low hills, black asphalt stretched to the horizon.

Behind the wheel of his vintage Porsche 918 - red, with a white racing stripe and a stylized M on the hood - Gabriel sat and waited while the announcer went through the day's events. While he waited he looked at the cars around him. His wasn't the fastest, nor the slowest. It was right in the middle of the pack, which made the grin that split his face even wider. A camera drone floated down until it was just above his windshield and he knew the race was about to begin.

Red... His foot hovered over the accelerator.

Yellow... Slowly he pushed it down, trying to get the engine right at the perfect RPM for when the race inter-lock engaged.


PostPosted: Sun Sep 22, 2013 9:33 am
by Sunset
CORE1 Station, Unclaimed Space...

Flynn plucked his akubra off and scratched his head for a moment.

"Well, I reckon this will be one heck of a sale!"

Settling the hat back onto his blond locks, he walked over to the entrance to the shop where the tangle of newcomers was already excitedly inspecting his wares. He'd never seen their like before but he was sure of one thing: Anyone who comes into a gun store is looking to buy a gun.

"Ladies, Gentleman," he gave them his best weasel smile, "Welcome to Flynn's Factory Guns!"

Half of the flock stopped to look at him, putting the various items of military paraphernalia back on the shelves. A flock was an entirely accurate description for his new customers. There seemed to be about a dozen females, if body type was anything to go by, and one male that stood back from the rest. They all had the bodies of athletic humanoids, all muscle and sinew, except for their arms and lower legs. The arms were wings. Not at the back as an angel but instead of arms. These had three joints - nearly human except for a third long span where the hand would have been.

Their primary manipulators were their feet. From the knee down they had the scaled legs of terrestrial birds and these ended in long, dexterous looking hands tipped with sharp talons. Both the male and the female had long, flowing hair, with each displaying their own particular color and pattern that matched those of the feathers on their wings. Plaited braids and ties held different colored feathers and he guessed they were a show of bonding as they matched those of the other members of the flock.

All of them wore harnesses made of crude native leather, and these were also adorned with feathers and various worked bits of metal. These ranged from carved hilts and guards on long daggers to epic settings for gemstones of all shapes and sizes. There were also various pouches and straps, all within easy reach of the flexible legs.

"Ground monkey!" One of the females closer to the male called out. "You will show us your weapons, for we must go to war!"

"War you say?" Flynn smiled, "Well, if it's one thing ol' Flynn knows, it's how to make war! Take a look over here!"

He turned and gestured to the back wall of the shop. Behind the lower displays they could all see why it was named Flynn's Factory Guns. A giant window looked out onto a massive automated factory. Everywhere they looked robots turned and wheeled, molten metal poured, huge presses stamped, and sparks flew.

"Here at Flynn's Factory Guns... We. Make. War."

PostPosted: Sun Sep 22, 2013 5:33 pm
by Sunset
CORE1 Station, Unclaimed Space...

"For you folks, since you're relatively new to modern warfare, I'm going to recommend a whole package deal."

As any good sales weasel did, Flynn was skillfully trying to up-sell his new clients in every possible way. They'd already agreed to custom weapons - a big cost multiplier - though any reasonable sentient would agree that they needed it. They'd get the benefits of mass manufacturing, of course, but only after the first few batches.

"It's going to take some design work to accommodate your unique, and might I add striking, physiology but I can offer you a complete war-fighting system that includes the whole shooting match for a substantial per-unit discount." Which would be more than offset by the decreased costs to him for shipping everything separately. "We start with a custom uniform - this is only a sample - that includes all the bells and whistles."

A hologram appeared on the display pedestal of one of the female, it's image gathered from the store cameras, dressed in a sleek looking uniform that was air superiority gray on the front and a patchy camouflage green on the other. They'd informed him that they were embarked on a war of conquest. Something about conquering all the other flocks before their planet formally applied to become Sunset citizens. It didn't really matter to him.

"It's an advanced polymorphic. Self-powered fabric that can alter it's shape to whatever the user needs. Urban camouflage one minute, a dress the next."

"Can it do a harness?" One of the females peered at it. He'd learned that they had exceptional eyesight, and from the five meters it was standing from the pedestal it would be like examining something through a grade-school microscope for him.

"I think it can," he accessed the AR controls and the image shifted to a harness that was very similar to the one worn by the questioner. "Of course, this is only a model, the final product might differ."

Before they could ask what he meant by 'differ' he was on to the next level of the package, adding a suite of mid-level warfare cybernetics that would still put them... A wingspan? Beyond anything their opponents might have. That proved to be a much harder sell.